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Archive for June 11th, 2011

In revisiting the anime of my youth, I’ve been finding just how much it’s managed to color my judgement and personality in ways I’d always sort of taken for granted, especially where my appreciation of other works of cinema are concerned. From elementary to high-school I wound up devouring a steady diet of Japanese animation, such to the point that it became one of my default modes of entertainment growing up, and would’ve likely supplanted live-action fare had there been more of it available on cable during my years in junior-high. As it stood, I contented myself with renting or buying whatever I could get my hands on in VHS and sitting through edited broadcast-versions of racy and violent films, series and OVA on the Sci-Fi channel, letting it all form the defining filters of my early preferences without my ever being entirely aware of it. As a teen of the late 90’s, I can recognize now how it forms the foundation for a kind of generational appreciation of works that older viewers may not always get entirely, and younger ones may not realize the importance of. When I sat in the theater enraptured by The Phantom Menace, part of my enjoyment lay in the fact that I was watching something that at times didn’t resemble Star Wars as it did some kind of Star Wars anime, thanks to Doug Chiang’s sleek but opulent designs and George Lucas’ digitally unleashed action set-piece design.

Specifically, there was something about the work I saw on the big screen in 1999 that reminded me of a little-known OVA from earlier in the decade, home to a galaxy full of its own out-of-this-world designs and master-and-apprentice characters. When it aired on the Sci-Fi channel, Iria was almost a completely unknown entity in the United States, put out on the modest scale that OVA VHS releases used to enjoy in the days before widespread DVD and Internet distribution. Few would’ve been aware of the work that Testuro Amino had previously made as one of the anonymously talented journeyman directors of anime projects, never quite rising to the same stature of beloved mainstream and cult auteurs of the medium but still finding genuine ways to make his talent shine above mere entertainment. Even fewer would’ve been aware of the project’s connection to the live-action Zeiram films in Japan, much less that this animated project was of all things a precursor to an entire franchise they’d never been exposed to. Those films, written and directed by Keita Amemiya, were largely inspired by the costumed hero-and-monster theatrics of various kaiju and Ultraman style movies and television shows  made up the staple of Japanese youth entertainment in the 70’s and 80’s.

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